25 April 2014
First, the company hired Transhumanist figurehead Ray Kurzweil to work as its director of engineering. Now, Google has hired top geneticist Cynthia Kenyon to work at Calico, Google’s “moonshot” operation aimed at extending human life.
At Calico, in partnership with Arthur Levinson, former chief executive of Genentech – the first genetic engineering company founded in 1976 – Google will strive to “significantly expand the human life span.”
Cynthia Kenyon, a biochemistry and biophysics professor, will help Calico search for radical life extension technologies. She will be working under Dr. Hal Barron, a former product development leader at Roche Pharmaceuticals that Calico hired in November of 2013.
Calico, working with Genentech, will likely utilize genetic engineering and synthetic DNA in its quest to extend human life. The Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year ruled against the patenting of natural human genes. However, there was a vital part of the ruling that allows for the patenting of synthetically engineered DNA.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense published a 2006 report titled The DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme 2007-2036. The report outlined possible scenarios surrounding life extension. The report states, “The divide between those that could afford to ‘buy longevity’ and those that could not, could aggravate perceived global inequality. Dictatorial or despotic rulers could potentially also ‘buy longevity’, prolonging their regimes and international security risks.”
The growing Transhumanist movement, with Google’s help, is attempting to shift cultural dialogues around aging and natural humanity. Google is paving the way in wearable technology that will eventually end up implanted in the human body. Trends researchers are already wondering how “naturals” will compete with “Enhanced Singular Individuals” who have augmented themselves with implantable technology and genetic enhancements.
Whether or not any of these things can be accomplished remains to be seen. In the meantime these developments should not pass by without open discussion. How will synthetic DNA impact our health and environment? Synthetic biology is already set to enter the food supply this year with little to no debate at all.
The rapidly developing field of epigenetics is showing us that human DNA is far more complex than previously thought. As Discover magazine reports, “Your ancestors’ lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain.” Will genetic code written in a computer contain the same “memories” of our ancestors that helped us to adapt and survive in the world?